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Competition via innovation trumps regulation by limitation

Censorship by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube of free-market views provides a stark reminder that the far left, which favors lockdowns over liberties, seeks opportunity to control activity on the internet – one of the greatest tools for freedom ever created.

While the banning of former President Trump by these social media platforms offers the case du jour, numerous other conservatives whose supporters didn’t invade the Capitol have felt the sting of Big Tech’s expurgation.

Earlier this year, Facebook locked former congressman Ron Paul’s page just hours after the libertarian hero shared an article he wrote criticizing tech giants.

After Paul, who has over 1.2 million Facebook followers, reported being blocked, the social network claimed the incident happened “by mistake.”

Maybe, but the timing is at least suspicious.

While some on the left feign concern about online suppression, it’s been conservatives who’ve suffered the brunt of lockouts beginning years before Trump was banned.

Five years ago, Twitter and Facebook permanently locked out right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and handed Alex Jones, a radio talk show host specializing in conspiracy theories, a lifetime ban in 2018.

Those on the left cheered, claiming these offenders’ alt-right views were so radical and their language so offensive that the exception to abiding by the generally accepted norm in American history of tolerating public dialogue even if it’s provocative, controversial or even occasionally rude and hurtful was justified.

After all, they claimed, Twitter and Facebook are private companies and don’t have to provide First Amendment protection to the offenders.

True, but even private businesses must abide by civil rights laws and cannot discriminate against individuals based on a whole litany of factors, including skin color or disability.

How can those on the left, who rightly fight such discrimination – in the streets, if necessary – so hastily ban those expressing unpopular or politically incorrect (according to those running the platforms) views or raw speech?

“How is it any different than a restaurant owner refusing to serve a Black person?” asked my friend, who adds: “My sister can’t turn Black Lives Matter protesters away from her bakery in Louisville if they want a cupcake even if she thinks they spout hate speech. So why should private companies be able to ban conservatives because of their views? It’s total hypocrisy.”

A vigorous discussion is underway among conservative lawmakers regarding an appropriate government response.

Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, in a Fox News interview argued that social media platforms are “common carriers” and therefore should be regulated like utilities or treated as monopolies and broken up.

Kennedy called Cleco, which provides his home’s electricity, “a common carrier.”

“It’s a private company, but they can’t call me up and say, ‘Kennedy, we’re shuttin’ off your electricity ‘cause we don’t like your politics.”

While Kennedy’s regulation-by-limitation approach will appeal to many frustrated by the intolerance of the left, why not instead take the route of competition via innovation which historically has led to better outcomes?

Trump’s doing this by bypassing the censors and investing in his own platform.

The day after “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump” went live, Facebook’s Oversight Board announced it would uphold its ban on the former president.

But walking back began even as the decision was announced; the Washington Post added: "At least for now.”

As these leftist social media platforms realize they can no longer deny Trump the opportunity to spout his rough-and-tumble speech, don’t be surprised if their desire to not be left behind trumps their foolish intolerance of conservatism.

The “invisible hand” of the free market spoken of by Adam Smith in the 18th century and based on individual incentive, innovation and liberty still works better than government coercion to benefit a 21st-century society filled with the kind of technology the Scottish philosopher and economist could never have imagined.

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free market think tank. Reach him at and @bipps on Twitter.

Editor’s Note: The Bluegrass Beacon is a weekly syndicated newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute’s website after being published by newspapers statewide.

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